Come On Down To My Boat (house) Baby…Anyone old enough to recognize that song? Thought not!


Contractor works out kinks to move boathouse to NYC
The Stamford Advocate
By John Nickerson
Staff Writer
May 20, 2004

Photo: Kerry Sherck

NORWALK — If there was a Ripley’s category for water wings, the balloon-type things kids put around their arms to keep them afloat in the water, the world’s largest pair might be in Norwalk Harbor.

A Greenwich contractor working just off the bank of the Norwalk River is preparing to mount huge metal air tanks to the front and rear of a floating boathouse in hopes that the added buoyancy will allow the 80-foot vessel to be towed to its new home on the Harlem River in New York City.

The green and yellow structure, which will house rowing sculls and other water craft for use by underprivileged kids and dues-paying members, will be the first of its kind anchored off the Manhattan shoreline in perhaps 100 years.

The project, funded by Bette Midler, Paul Newman, Yoko Ono and the Peter Jay Sharp Foundation, has been in the works for nearly a year.

But a considerable error in calculating how large the barge should have been to float the 5,000 square-foot boathouse, has left it lying too low in the water, said Alex Foglietta III, of Foglietta & Son Inc., of Greenwich, the boathouse builder. The boat must be raised before it can make the trip to its new home in Swindler Cove near 208th Street in Harlem.

Foglietta & Son had the air tanks built to raise the barge and last week they were delivered to Norwalk Marine Contractors.

For the past few days a crane has been stationed alongside the 54-foot wide boathouse, seemingly at the ready to hoist the tanks into place.

On Monday, Foglietta said the tanks would be mounted sometime this week and the boathouse would be moved out next Thursday. Foglietta said no one has been able to figure out what went wrong with the $2.8 million boathouse, causing it to sit so low in the water. Foglietta on Tuesday declined further comment.

Roberta Greene, a spokeswoman for the New York Restoration Project, which was founded by Midler and raised the funds to build the boathouse, said the boat will be towed out of the harbor Tuesday or Wednesday. Subsequent efforts to obtain more information from Restoration Project sources, however, went unanswered.

According to earlier interviews with Foglietta and a current posting on New York Restoration Project Web site, the boathouse was supposed to move to New York City last October.

In December, Foglietta reported that it would be towed out of the harbor in January.

Now, it appears as though the boathouse is ready to move, as long as the tanks can raise the boathouse high enough.

Though the project has been delayed, a star-studded reception with fireworks is planned next month for the boathouse, named for Peter Jay Sharp, a prominent New York real estate developer, builder and philanthropist.

On June 17, the Restoration Project is scheduled to hold its annual spring picnic aboard the boathouse to celebrate both its opening and the opening of the five-acre Swindler Cove Park, another project of the nonprofit organization.

Honorary co-chairs of the event are “Sex in the City” star Sarah Jessica Parker and New York Gov. George Pataki.

Gossip columnist Liz Smith will be mistress of ceremonies, according to the Restoration Project invitation.

A fireworks display by Grucci, the same firm that was hired to celebrate Central Park’s 150th anniversary last year, is also planned.

New York rowers are now buying memberships to maintain the boathouse and its programs for neighborhood kids, who could become competitive enough to apply for collegiate crew rowing scholarships.

According to New York Rowing Association Chairman Vincenzo Paparo, about 200 recreational rowers are being encouraged to join the Sharp Rowing Club for a minimum of $1,000 per year. This gives them access to the boathouse, the only public one in Manhattan, Paparo said yesterday. Columbia University has a private boathouse at the Baker Field Sports Complex, which is near Swindler Cove Park.

Of the $1,000, $250 is tax deductible and will be used to fund free rowing programs for local community youths, Paparo said.

Because it is well-protected and narrow, the Harlem River is an ideal place for the Sharp Boathouse, Paparo said.

At the turn of the last century, when rowing was a much more popular sport than it is today, there may have been as many as 50 boathouses around Manhattan, Paparo said.

“I think it’s great. The New York Restoration Project has done a great thing for New York City and for rowing in this area. The New York Rowing Association is very pleased to be a part of it,” Paparo said.

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